Congress changes tax on children’s investment income

Congress has changed the “kiddie tax” – the tax that must be paid on children’s investment income.  If any of your planning involves gifts to children, you might want to reconsider your strategy in light of the changes.

In the past, the “kiddie tax” provided that if a child under age 14 had investment income above a certain amount – the income was taxed at the parent’s tax rate, not the child’s tax rate (assuming the parents’ rate is higher). [Read more…]

The Beliveaul Law Group – Waltham MA Attorneys | Salem NH Lawyers | Naples FL Law Firm

The Beliveau Law Group: Massachusetts | Florida | New Hampshire

The attorneys at The Beliveau Law Group provide legal services in a variety of concentrations including estate planning (wills and trusts), Medicaid (planning and applications), probate (estate and trust administration), business law (formation and operation), real estate (residential and commercial), taxation (federal and state), and civil litigation (in connection with these practice areas). The law firm has offices and attorneys in Naples, Florida, Waltham, Massachusetts, and Salem, New Hampshire.

Moving to another state can create estate planning benefits

People often move to another state after they retire. In the past, this was usually to take advantage of a better climate or to be closer to friends and family. But these days, moving is often a good form of estate planning.

One reason is state estate taxes. These used to be tied closely into the federal estate tax system and largely a non-issue. But for several years now state estate taxes have been “uncoupled” from the federal system. States now vary widely in their tax rates and exemptions, and moving to another state can often significantly affect how much of your assets will be left for your heirs. [Read more…]

How to plan your estate if you have a special needs child

Almost three million children in the U.S. between the ages of 5 and 15 have special needs, according to the latest Census figures.  Parents of these children need to use extra care in planning their estates. For most people, estate planning is about making sure your assets go where you want them to, and minimizing inconvenience and taxes along the way.  But parents of special needs children face an additional challenge because they have to make sure that their children will continue to be cared for, even if they have trouble caring for themselves.

One of the best ways to do this is with a “special needs trust”.  Many people with special needs are eligible for government programs that finance their basic support needs.  This includes health insurance coverage and direct cash payments through the Medicaid system and Social Security.  The problem is that people are eligible for these programs only if they don’t have enough assets to pay for those items themselves.  If a person with special needs has assets in his or her name, the government wants the person to use those assets before it will provide support.  [Read more…]

Attorney David Beliveau

Attorney Beliveau has been named a “Massachusetts Rising Star” by the publishers of Boston Magazine and Law and Politics Magazine.  The distinction, awarded to less than five (5%) of all Massachusetts lawyers, was based on ballots cast by Massachusetts attorneys, asking them to identify the best lawyers, under the age of forty (40), whom they had personally observed in action.

Office rents nosedive; vacancies see historic increase

Office rents nationwide declined 8.5 percent in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the previous year, according to Reis, Inc., a real estate research firm. At the same time, office vacancies rose. At the end of the third quarter, tenants were leasing some 19.6 million square feet less than at the beginning, according to Reis.

For the first three quarters of 2009, the net reduction in rented office space was 64.2 million square feet, the largest decline since records began to be kept in 1980. The vacancy rate was 16.5%, the highest since 2004. Of 79 metropolitan areas tracked by Reis, vacancies rose in 72 of them in the third quarter, and rents declined in 68 of them. Of course, no one can predict the future, but with rents at such low levels it might be a good time for tenants to renegotiate a lease and lock in rates for a longer term.

 

Check the zoning rules before you buy a property

It can be a great idea to buy a “fixer-upper” – as long as you’re sure the local zoning rules will allow you to actually fix it up. Unfortunately, many people have bought a home or other property with the idea of remodeling it to their tastes, only to discover that what they had in mind is against the law. [Read more…]

Landlord collects rent despite tenant’s bankruptcy

Two days before a commercial landlord in Nebraska was to receive a $90,000 rent payment for some cropland, the tenant filed for bankruptcy. What happens? Can the landlord still collect? The law is somewhat unclear, but in this case a federal appeals court sided with the landlord and ruled that the tenant had to pay the entire $90,000.

The tenant was a business and it filed a Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy (as opposed to liquidating under Chapter 7). According to the ruling, the bankrupt company still had to perform all its obligations under the commercial real property lease until the fate of the lease was decided in court.

Consider putting your rental property into an LLC

If you own rental or other income-producing property, you should consider putting it into a limited liability company. This can be a great way to protect your assets, while at the same time you can reap some tax advantages.

Suppose someone slips and falls on your rental property and sues you. If you own the property as an individual, all your assets would be at risk – your home, your investments, your savings accounts, etc. But if the property is owned by an LLC, in most cases the risk would be limited to the amount of your investment in the LLC. Your personal assets would be safe.

The same is true for other types of claims involving a property, such as fire-related claims or problems with environmental contamination. [Read more…]

Lease/purchase options can benefit both buyers and sellers

In a challenging real estate market, there’s been a growing interest in lease/purchase options, which can benefit sellers and make it easier for prospective purchasers to buy. A common problem today is that, due to new lending restrictions, many potential buyers can’t qualify for a loan even though they have saved toward a down payment and are generally a good credit risk.

The solution for both sides might be a lease/purchase option. Basically, the prospective purchasers agree to rent the property for a year (or more), after which they have the option to purchase it at a given price. Each month a portion of their rental payment is credited toward the purchase price, which will reduce the amount they have to pay if they decide to buy. In effect, it’s a “rent-to-own” arrangement for real estate. [Read more…]

Average cost of nursing home private rooms is now $80,000 a year

Inflation may be low and the economy may be struggling, but the cost of elder care is continuing to increase, according to a new Metlife survey.

The average cost of a private room in a nursing home rose 3.3 percent in 2009 to $79,935 a year – or $219 a day. The average cost of an assisted living facility also climbed 3.3 percent, to $37,572 a year or $3,131 a month. [Read more…]

Larger tax deductions for long-term care insurance

The amount you can deduct on your taxes as a result of buying long-term care insurance has been increased by the IRS for 2010.

Generally, you can deduct part of your premiums if the premiums, together with your other unreimbursed medical expenses, amount to more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. [Read more…]

529 plans can pay for computers and Internet service

Tax-free college savings plans and prepaid tuition programs – known as “529 plans” – can be used to buy computer equipment and Internet services for students during 2010. This change was part of the stimulus bill enacted by Congress last year.

Many grandparents and other relatives set up 529 plans (named for section 529 of the federal tax code) to help young people with college expenses. Family members can contribute up to $13,000 a year to these plans ($26,000 for a couple) without incurring gift tax. The money can then grow in the account tax-free. Family members who want to quickly get money out of their estate for tax reasons can “front-load” their contributions and give $65,000 right away (or $130,000 for a couple), as long as they don’t make any other contributions for five years. [Read more…]

Where should you keep your will?

Once you’ve written a will and created an estate plan, you need to figure out what to do with the will itself. Obviously, it’s very important to keep track of the location of your current will – as well as any old wills.
The safest place to keep the original copy of your will is in a bank safe deposit box, but it might not always be the most practical. If the will is in a safe deposit box, it might be difficult for your family to access the box after you die.

Another option is to keep it at home in a fire-proof safe – as long as your family members know how to open the safe.

You can also ask your attorney to keep the original copy of the will. If you do so, be sure to provide your attorney with updated contact information if you move. [Read more…]

High-profile Astor case could lead to more prosecutions of financial elder abuse

The criminal conviction this past October of the son of New York society matron Brooke Astor on charges of taking advantage of her while she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease could lead to more prosecutions for financial abuse of the elderly…and this includes ordinary families, not just wealthy socialites.

As many as a million older people are taken advantage of financially each year, according to a study by MetLife. In most cases, the culprits are family members or caregivers. [Read more…]

You may be able to fight a nursing home discharge

Sometimes a nursing home wants to get rid of a particular resident. It might think the resident (or the resident’s family) is “difficult.” The resident might require more expensive or demanding care than others. Or the resident might be a Medicaid recipient, and the nursing home could make more money by replacing him or her with a private-pay individual.

The usual way that nursing homes get rid of residents is to transfer them to a hospital, then refuse to let them back in. This can obviously be very traumatic for the resident. However, it’s sometimes possible for residents to fight back and challenge such discharges legally. [Read more…]

New Nevada law may help people in other states save taxes, protect assets

 A new law in Nevada could benefit people all over the country who want to reduce estate taxes and protect assets from creditors. The law allows anyone in the U.S. to create a “restricted” limited partnership or limited liability company in Nevada.

In general, putting assets into an LP or LLC can be a good idea. You can then give membership units, or shares, in the LP or LLC to your heirs each year. Ordinarily, you can’t give anyone more than $13,000 a year without incurring gift tax. But because the shares are worth less than an equivalent amount of the underlying assets, each year you can give your heirs shares that represent considerably more than $13,000 worth of assets. [Read more…]

Make sure your loved ones can find your passwords

Years ago, when someone passed away, their loved ones could often access all the documents they needed with a simple key to a safe deposit box.

Now however, many aspects of people’s lives – both financial and personal – are online in places accessible only by password. This includes e-mail accounts, PayPal accounts, online banks and brokerages, automatic bill-paying arrangements, and even Facebook pages and photo collections. [Read more…]

Making gifts or loans to your children? Mention this in your will

Many parents make gifts or loans to their children. Often they give more money to one child than to others, perhaps because one child has a greater need. If you do make a significant gift or loan to one of your heirs, you should modify your will to address it.

The reason: If something happens to you, it might be unclear to your heirs what the effect of the gifts or loans should be on their inheritance. In some families, this kind of uncertainty can lead to family battles and even a legal challenge to the will. But even if this doesn’t happen, some children might be quietly offended or simply uncertain, and you probably want to avoid that if possible. [Read more…]

How to plan your estate if you have a special needs child

Almost three million children in the U.S. between the ages of five and 15 have special needs, according to the latest Census figures. Parents of these children need to use extra care in planning their estates.

For most people, estate planning is about making sure your assets go where you want them to, and minimizing inconvenience and taxes along the way. But parents of special needs children face an additional challenge because they have to make sure that their children will continue to be cared for, even if they have trouble caring for themselves. [Read more…]

U.S. steps up pressure on companies that hire illegal workers

The Obama administration has announced that it intends to focus its immigration enforcement efforts on companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants, by stepping up its audits of I-9 forms – the employment eligibility documents that employers must fill out for every worker. This appears to be a change from the Bush administration, which had placed more emphasis on arresting illegal workers as opposed to going after employers.

On one single day in 2009, Immigration officials served “Notices of Inspection” on 652 businesses around the country. That compares to 503 such notices issued during the entire year of 2008. Employers often complain that the I-9 requirements are difficult for them, because it can be hard to determine whether identity documents are authentic and because they fear that questioning the documents too closely could open them up to discrimination claims.

‘Fear’ didn’t justify late sex harassment complaint

A worker who waited five months to complain to her employer that a co-worker was sexually harassing her can’t sue the company, even though she said she waited so long because she was afraid of retaliation. That’s the result of a federal appeals court ruling from Washington, D.C. The employer’s sex harassment policy told employees to report harassment immediately to an EEO manager. But instead of complaining right away, the worker simply posted the company’s sex harassment policy on her door. She says the co-worker warned her that if she complained about him to management, no one would believe her, and people would think that she was the problem.

 However, the court said that the worker’s fear of reporting the harassment wasn’t reasonable. It said the only person who discouraged her from reporting it was the co-worker, and he wasn’t her supervisor, didn’t threaten her with any adverse employment action, and had no other leverage with which to intimidate her.

New mother can sue for pregnancy discrimination

A woman who was fired shortly after she returned from maternity leave can file a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against her employer, says the Iowa Supreme Court. Although the woman obviously was no longer pregnant at the time she was fired, the court said this didn’t matter, because pregnancy discrimination includes discrimination against “women affected by pregnancy, childbirth and other related conditions,” so it includes a new mother.

The woman was the marketing director at a small company that made natural body care products. A few weeks after she was hired, she announced that she was pregnant. She claims that at the time, the company’s chairman asked her if she was going to “be like all those other women who find it’s this life-altering experience and decide to stay home.” [Read more…]

Get the new EEOC workplace poster

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has revised the poster that employers are required to display in the workplace to reflect new federal employment discrimination laws, including the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and recent changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The revised poster also includes updates from the Department of Labor. It is available in English, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic.

To view or print the poster, go to www.eeoc.gov/self_print_poster.pdf.

To request the poster from the EEOC, go to www.eeoc.gov/posterform.html.

Employers sued for discrimination by independent contractors

Two new cases show that an employer can be sued for discrimination even if the person who was discriminated against – or for that matter, the person who did the discriminating – was an independent contractor. In a case in Pittsburgh, a black woman was terminated as a sales representative for a company that made adjustable beds. She claimed this was because of racism.

A federal appeals court said that the woman couldn’t sue under Title VII, the most well-known employment discrimination law, because she was a contractor, not an employee. However, she could sue under a different law. The other law was passed by Congress during the Civil War era and prohibits race discrimination in contracts – including employment contracts. [Read more…]

Physical exam for employee returning to work may be illegal

Can an employee who is returning to work after surgery be given an exam to make sure he or she is up to the job? The answer is yes…although this is a very tricky area, because these exams can also violate the Americans With Disabilities Act.

In a recent case, a mill worker underwent knee surgery. Before she could come back to work, her employer made her take a “physical capacity evaluation.” An occupational therapist evaluated the employee and recommended that she not return to work, and she was terminated. She sued under the ADA. [Read more…]

Many more people can sue for disability discrimination

The number of people who can sue for disability discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act has greatly increased. That’s because the federal government has issued new rules that explain when someone is “disabled.” And under these rules, a lot more people qualify than in the past. Previously, when an employee brought a lawsuit under the ADA, it was very common for there to be a lengthy dispute about whether he or she was in fact disabled. However, as a result of the new rules, it will be much easier for employees to prove that they’re disabled – so more lawsuits will focus instead on whether the employer reasonably accommodated the worker.

The new rules were published by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Here’s an explanation of the changes. To understand how they work, it’s important to know that the ADA defines a disability as an impairment that substantially limits a person with regard to a major life activity. The new rules make it easier for workers to prove that they have an impairment, and they make it easier to show that their impairment limits a major life activity. [Read more…]